Giving until it feels good

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As a child, Janet Putnam Johnson ’65 was certain she would attend the University of Redlands. Born to two prominent Bulldog alumni, Robert S. Putnam ’37 and Virginia Demaree Putnam ’37, “Redlands was in my blood,” she said. Johnson fondly recalls attending the Feast of Lights and Homecoming when she was young with her parents and sister, Barbara “Barbi” Putnam Carpenter ’70. Bob served as a University Trustee and alumni president, and his father and uncle were well known at U of R as the owners of Putnam Brothers grocery store. Johnson was appreciative that “my parents instilled in us the importance of education,” she said. But both her parents stressed that Johnson’s college decision was hers to make. “I didn’t think seriously about other schools,” she added. “I equated going to college with going to Redlands.”

With campus involvements, including Delta Kappa Psi, choir, yearbook and SPURS, Johnson credits her experience in student government as a significant contribution to her leadership and communication skills. Though she originally planned to be a teacher, the writing and critical thinking abilities she developed as an English major and Spanish minor prepared her for a different future.

Johnson enjoyed a successful career with The Aerospace Corporation, an organization committed to assuring space-mission success for its customers. Among her early responsibilities was the recruitment of engineers from the country’s top universities. Through this work, she met Charles E. Johnson, a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, whose efforts contributed to the first U.S. lunar soft landing in 1966. Charles and Janet wed in 1966 and enjoyed 44 years of marriage before his death in 2011.

Her parents’ example not only influenced Janet’s education but also her philanthropy. Growing up, she knew Bob and Virginia were loyal donors to Redlands, and after graduation she quickly followed in their footsteps. When Janet and Charles began planning their estate decades ago, they decided to include both U of R and Johns Hopkins, but they were hesitant to disclose their plans. “We didn’t want to put pressure on ourselves,” she said. “What if things didn’t go the way we planned?”

Johnson felt that the timing of her 50th reunion made 2015 the “perfect year” to share her intentions. Her generous support blends a flexible charitable gift annuity while naming Redlands as one of her IRA beneficiaries. “This was the right answer for me,” she said. “It made sense and benefitted everyone.” The annuity arrangement does not tie her to a specific schedule, and she found the contract to be “simple and straightforward,” she said. “Working out the details was very easy.”

Representing a Redlands family legacy that celebrates the value of a liberal arts education, the Charles and Janet Putnam Johnson Endowed Scholarship addresses the desire for her contributions to “live beyond me,” she said, while also honoring her late husband’s memory. Recipients will reflect the values that they shared, including “a commitment to leadership and community.”

Reflecting on her philanthropic decision, Johnson recalled the words of a minister, “Give until it feels good.” She feels those words are a perfect description for her charitable giving. “I haven’t worried about it, because this feels good.”

For more information on leaving your legacy at the University of Redlands, please contact Associate Vice President for Development Ray Watts at 909-748-8358 or ray_watts@redlands.edu.

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